Revered children's author Allan Ahlberg has turned down an award for lifetime achievement because it is sponsored by Amazon, saying “the idea that my 'lifetime achievement' should have the Amazon tag attached to it is unacceptable".
The award was offered to him by the Booktrust at its Best Book Awards earlier this month, and although he was initially delighted at having been chosen, he turned it down upon discovering the online retailer's sponsorship.
In a letter to The Bookseller magazine, he wrote that its widely criticised tax arrangements, first revealed in 2012, compelled him to decline the honour. "Could the Booktrust not have found a more moral sponsor?" he wrote.
"Tax, fairly applied to us all, is a good thing. It pays for schools, hospitals – libraries! When companies like Amazon cheat – paying 0.1% on billions, pretending it is earning money not in the UK, but in Luxembourg – that's a bad thing. We should surely, at the very least, say that it is bad and on no account give it any support or, by association, respectability.”
Amazon's UK branch paid £4.2m in taxes last year, which was less than one per cent of the total £4.3bn made in sales. The retailer has kept its tax rate low by taking payment from customers based on Luxembourg’s tax jurisdiction. It is also because the company only pays tax on its profits, with much of its turnover being put back into the expanding business.
The awards, called the "Booktrust Best Book awards with Amazon Kindle", were decided by 120,000 school children from around the UK. It is the first time that this particular award, the Booktrust Lifetime Achievement Award, has been given.
Since starting his writing career in the 1970s, Ahlberg has produced some of the UK's most loved children's books, including Each Peach Pear Plum, The Jolly Postman and Funny Bones, to name a few. He created many of his works alongside his late wife, Janet, who was an illustrator.
Viv Bird, chief executive of Booktrust, told the Bookseller that, although disappointed by Ahlberg's choice, she recognised that it was his “personal decision”.
She added that the reading charity works with "a wide range of partners in order to fulfil our charitable aim of bringing books to children and children to books", and that "Amazon's sponsorship of the Best Book awards, in its inaugural year, enabled us to celebrate some of the best of children's literature, create a buzz around books, and make a significant contribution to our mission of encouraging more children to read".